Last Saturday, Jude and I were lucky enough to be invited to the opening of an art exhibition at St George’s Chapel cloisters, inside Windsor Castle. All the paintings on display were by a good friend of ours, Arthur Manton-Lowe. Before he retired and took up painting, Arthur used to be a ‘bobby on the beat’ in Eton and Windsor and so has good ‘connections’ with the Castle.
Our viewing was preceded by the daily Evensong service in the Chapel and I have to say that it was a wonderful experience. If you ever find yourself in or near Windsor at 5pm, you should attend the (free) service. The internal architecture has to be seen to be believed and the choristers are simply amazing.
Arthur’s ‘Pilgrimage’ exhibition is open, from 10am – 4pm, until Thursday 6th October.
Unfortunately, photography was not allowed inside the chapel, though I did sneak a quick photo of Arthur in the Cloisters. So the later photographs below, of him at work and some of his paintings, were all taken in our chalet.
Before I retired, I put my name down to help with a group of Nestlé volunteers, who give up their time to take disabled people into the mountains. They use a specially designed ‘Joelette’, which has one wheel supporting a sort of modern sedan chair. (See pic 5 or link below). It has a disc brake to slow the descent and a little motor to help going uphill.
The weather forecast for the afternoon of our trip (i.e. last Friday) was not good, so the route was changed to be a relatively straightforward meander through the vineyards above Saillon.
I’ve been to Saillon a few times, but I learnt so much that day from Jean-Michel, the organiser and leader of the group. For example, I learnt that:
- The vineyard region is named after a guy called Farinet (1845-80), who escaped from an Italian jail and was a famous counterfeiter. You would think that this would make him unpopular, but he became known as the Robin Hood of the Alps, because he helped the poor. He’s now buried in Saillon and there’s a ‘Fausse Monnaie’ museum in the centre of the village in his honour.
- The world’s smallest registered vineyard, which has just three vines, is located above the village. Each year famous personalities from the world of sport, art and politics, come to ceremoniously work on the vines. (Some of their names are painted on signposts in the vineyard).
For a long time, the vines belonged to Abbé Pierre, but he bequeathed them to the Dalai Lama, who is still the owner today. There are hundreds of hand-written plaques placed near the vineyard with religious or spiritual messages.
Unfortunately, due to the rain and my hands being busy holding the Joelette, I didn’t manage to capture any images of this particular area. Sorry !
*For more information on the HandiCapRando organisation please see this link (in French).
Taken on the way to Saillon
Taken on the way to Saillon
Cecilia in her ‘Joelette’
This friendly farmer gave us a whole box of pears.
I’m glad that I’ve been in training recently as this is certainly one of the hardest walks in my list. No wonder I’ve left it until now to publish it !
From the via ferrata car park in Evolène, it’s a direct 1,500 metre (almost 5,000 ft) climb to the Col du Torrent and from there the ridge path undulates at around 3,000 metres to the Pointe du Tsate (@3078m / 10,100 ft). An equally steep descent via La Sage, back to the car park, makes it about 20 kilometres (12.5 miles) and 1,950m (6,400 ft) of ascent overall.
There are some things that you might expect to see on a walk such as this – cows, marmottes, maybe even the odd chamois. But nothing could prepare me for what I saw at Béplan (@2,500m /8,200 ft) . See pics 5 and 6. It was a surreal moment !
If you’ve been following our journey over the past 3 days, you may have noticed how the weather was beginning to deteriorate, especially at the end of Day 3. It continued to rain overnight and for most of the next day. So we cut short our proposed route via the Aiguilles Rouges hut and went directly down to Arolla, where Jude picked us up.
Pete was so thrilled with Day 4, he sent me this email afterwards to thank me:
“So then, Day 4. After an easy-peasy 3 days (especially Day 3 ha! ha! ha!) my pals decide to take pity on their mate who has wun lung, wonky eyes, VERTIGO and previous operations on both knees, one foot (in two places I may add), one wrist, both eyes and heart. Did I mention the VERTIGO? So, they say, as it’s raining it will make that nice glacier even more slippery than usual. Great! We’ll show him a nice pleasant crevasse in the glacier on the way that leads to oblivion with one slip. Then, when he’s nearly made it across we’ll make him cross the river and tell him a bloke died there just last year by falling in and being sucked under the glacier. He’ll love that!And then, when if he does make it safely across we’ll make him climb up loads of slippery boulders and, if he survives that, he’ll face a lovely sheer drop, with a dinky-winky chain to hold on to, the wuss. I mean what’s his problem? (SORRY, DID I MENTION VERTIGO?) And then we’ll make him climb a series of perfectly-safe ladders up a sheer rock-face in the rain with oblivion below. Oh yes and one of us will casually mention that “it’s a long way down” from above just as he’s half way up one section (that, after all, is clearly what he’ll want to hear if he suffers from VERTIGO, the wuss!). And that same one of us will then say “blimey it’s slippery” when he’s a bit further up. That’ll cheer him up! ”
For pictures of what it should have looked like, see my post from last year (where you will also read that I acknowledge Pete’s vertigo, but still took no notice. He wouldn’t have it any other way. :-)
Both guardians at the Marcel Brunet and Louvie huts expressed surprise when I mentioned that we were planning to walk from the Cabane de Louvie to the Cabane des Dix. So it was with a little trepidation that we set off at around 7:45am, hoping to cover the 24k (15 miles) and 2,000m (6,500 ft) of ascent before dinner was served at around 7pm. In the event we made it, tired but in good time, at 5pm.
The route would take us through the aptly named Grand Désert area which, even in weak sunshine, looked bleak, grey and devoid of life. Though incredibly, you still see brightly coloured flowers here and there, defying the hostile terrain.
The next stage of our journey would take us from the Marcel Brunet hut to the Cabane de Louvie. As the crow flies, it was no more than about 2 or 3 miles, (indeed you could see the hut from the other side of the valley). However, along the official path, it was going to be far too long for our ageing limbs, especially given that we already had a big day planned for day 3. So, we took a short cut via Fionnay, (see last pic for our route), but not before taking in the impressive 210 metre (690 ft) suspension footbridge over the Glacier de Combassière. Even then we covered 15.5k (10 miles) and 1,450 m (4,750 ft) of ascent.
Along the way, Dave took to bouldering on every big lump of rock he could find (and that was a lot). I also had a nice chat with a lovely English couple, called Dan and Hollie, who were out for a day walk and live in Verbier. (I promised them I’d post their picture, so you’ll find them below…)
In my post on May 13th I mentioned that some friends and I were planning our annual walk in Switzerland this year. So it was that Pete, Liam and Dave came over last week to tackle 4 days of high level walking along part of the Swiss National Route 6.
As you can guess there are a number of Swiss National hiking routes, but we chose no. 6 as it almost passes by our chalet door here in Evolène. (See pic 1). The plan was to be dropped off by Jude at Bourg St. Pierre, with our rucksacks packed, then hike back towards Evolène, staying in 3 different mountain huts. The below images show our first day, where we walked about 20k (12.5 miles) with approximately 1,500m (5,000 ft) of ascent, to the Marcel Brunet hut.
With thanks to Pete for the use of some of his pictures. They are the good ones, in focus, of course ! ;-)
The pink line shows the Swiss National Route 6
Dave, me, Pete and Liam
Me, Liam and Dave
Me, Pete, Dave and Liam
The things you do to make a photo interesting !
The cabane is towards the right
After 4 days of increasingly difficult walking, yesterday was a rest day. So we did the touristy thing and drove around to the Dixence dam to marvel at its size. (It being the tallest gravity dam in the world). Despite the huge construction work that must have gone on, nature has a way of continuing as if nothing ever happened. I was particularly pleased to capture, and identify, the Queen of Spain fritillary (see first picture). According to my little book, no other fritillary has such large and shiny silver spots on the underside.
Another sunny day, another walk… I’m sensing a trend…🙂
The Swiss Alpine Club and other organisations have a habit of putting their mountain huts (cabanes) in stunning places. This is particularly true of the Aiguilles Rouges hut, which sits at 2,810 metres (9,220 ft). It’s a very stiff climb from La Gouille to the hut, so I always recommend taking the path from Arolla. It’s a little longer, but not as steep, and it also gives fabulous views back to Mont Collon and the Pigne d’Arolla.
It’s been another sunny day in the Val d’Hérens, so another walk was called for. This time we drove just a few minutes down the road to La Luette and followed the path which runs northwards on the east side of the valley. Along the way, it crosses the 133 metre Passerelle de la Grande Combe (suspension bridge), before we dropped down to the river at Cambioula and then back up the other side to Euseigne. The route was so dry and warm that we had grasshoppers and butterflies pinging and flitting about all around us.
The gallery below is another collaborative effort together with my daughter, Sarah and her boyfriend, Karl.